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By Griffin Swartzell, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 26, 2019
Senior Airman Lemuel Travis, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, left, and Senior Airman Daniel Acevedo-Chacon, 21st Civil Engineering Squadron heavy equipment operator, start repairs on a pothole, Aug. 15, 2019. While Travis operates a concrete saw, Acevedo-Chacon sprays it with water to prevent overheating. It takes hard work and diligence to keep the roads clear and in good repair on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, but that’s what Dirt Boyz Travis and Acevedo-Chacon do. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Griffin Swartzell)
Water and major temperature fluctuations put heavy wear and tear on the roads at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Dirt Boyz like Senior Airman Lemuel Travis, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, left, and Senior Airman Daniel Acevedo-Chacon, 21st Civil Engineering Squadron heavy equipment operator, plan where to cut into the roadway as part of the process of repairing a pothole, Aug. 15, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Griffin Swartzell)
For most Airmen, walking around with a dirty uniform is a surefire way to incite the wrath of leadership. However, for the Airmen whose mission it is to keep the roads and sidewalks of Peterson Air Force Base in repair, things are a little different.
“They call us Dirt Boyz because we're not afraid to get dirty,” says Senior Airman Lemuel Travis, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator. “At the end of day, we come out with dirty uniforms. That's how you know that the job's done right.”
Travis, originally from Augusta, Georgia, has been one of Peterson’s Dirt Boyz for three years now. He does a little of everything: repairing potholes, sweeping the flight line and removing snow in wintertime.
“If we’re not maintaining the roads, they get in really bad shape,” says Staff Sgt. Corey Griffin, 21st CES heavy equipment supervisor. “If we don’t fix the roads, if we don’t clear the snow, people can’t come to work and continue their missions.”
All summer, the Dirt Boyz work under the blazing sun, and when the snow comes, they work 12-hour shifts in the freezing cold to clear the roads. It’s hard work, but Travis says it’s satisfying to see his work make tangible changes in the community.
Travis said he always wanted to be in CE and is currently pursuing a B.S. degree in civil engineering alongside his work. He’s grateful for the opportunities CES offers him to explore different specializations and opportunities, something he would not have gotten had he gone to college instead of enlisting.
He also says he finds that the work challenges his problem solving skills. Every job is a little different, and every Dirt Boy approaches their tasks differently, but the mission objective remains consistent.
Colorado’s climate presents unique challenges for the Dirt Boyz and the roads on base.
“The main enemy of roads is actually water, because it can expand the cracks in the road surface, especially during the winter,” Travis explains. “As water melts, it gets into the cracks and freezes, expanding them even more. Also, during wet season, the road surface becomes looser, increasing wear and tear.”
For the Dirt Boyz, preventative maintenance means fewer interruptions to operations, so Travis and the rest of his group do regular patrols of Peterson looking for places where the roadway has wear and tear. Most problems start small, so if the Dirt Boyz can find them early, they can fix them before the constant flow of cars turns a little crack into a big crack.
Travis also notes that the Dirt Boyz are a close-knit bunch. Due to the nature of the work, he and his group have a lot of camaraderie and mutual trust in one another.
“When you work with heavy equipment, you can't hear anything around you,” he says. “But we always have each other's back. That's what I like about the shop. That's what I like about Peterson. Everyone here, we get along. And we don't complain about the work either. Everyone loves to do their job.”
To report a pothole call 21st CES at 719-556-4030.